During the last regularly scheduled meeting of the Wauseon City Council on February 3, Director of Public Service Dennis Richardson commented on the weather and extreme temperatures that have been plaguing the area over the last several weeks. As the city is now running out of room to dump snow that will not cause problems during the spring thaw and as the safety of drivers using the city’s streets demands that roadways be cleared, residents may on occasion find that the plowing and snow removal of the city ultimately winds up in the driveways or sidewalks that those residents may have themselves just cleared. Richardson acknowledges this problem and extends his regret. However, the city is being left with few choices as they try to clear the snow away from roadways and are doing the best that they can do to keep everyone safe during this harsh winter season.
Mayor Shaw also commented on the weather, noting that he was aware of some frozen water lines. He explained that he had spoken with one of the residents affected by this freezing and that the resident was thankful to the Public Works Department for working quickly to resolve the problem. Richardson responded that, due to the extreme cold, the city is having problems with services that have never before been a problem. Mayor Shaw complimented the Public Service Department on the work they have done to try to keep up with and get ahead of the weather.
Council also heard from Councilor Don Mathews on behalf of the Tree Commission. Mathews reported that the city is starting to prune the smaller trees along the sidewalks and that funding is still be sought out for the 15 trees slated to be planted at Homecoming Park in the fall. Mathews also informed council that approximately 100 ten year old trees are available to the Tree Commission from Richard Mull and that the Tree Commission is currently discussing where some of these trees might be planted,
Police Chief Keith Torbet provided his year-end report to Mayor Shaw as well as provided a graph that reflected different types of service calls the department handled to council. Torbet pointed out that major crimes within the city were down by 13% over the last year, a rate that was one of department’s lowest in several years. Torbet also informed council that, with the funds made available by the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), the department was able to purchase six laptops and one desk top.
Police Chief Sluder reported that the Fire Department responded to over 100 calls in January, which is high for the department. Included in these calls were three major structure fires outside of town which were handled in the extreme cold. Sluder also reported that twelve firefighters from the Wauseon Fire Department went to the funeral as well as attended the memorial services for the two Toledo firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty on January 26, 2014.
Code Administrator Tom Hall reported that he has been fielding phone calls from realtors and developers as well as that the new Dollar General store is underway and should be started in the near future. Dennis Richardson also noted that he has also been in contact with engineers involved in the new Dollar General store as well as he has been handling inquiries involving buried infrastructure.
Director of Finance Jamie Giguere distributed the January, 2014 financial, the 2014 year-to-date Income Tax Revenue, and wastewater revenue comparison reports to council. Director of Law Thomas McWatters III reported that he is working on finalizing some projects as well as working with the Union Cemetery Board about some financial matters but had no new matters to bring before Council.
With no legislative issues needing addressed by Council, Council then moved on to hear new business. Councilor Shane Chamberlin expressed his concern that he had heard from community members that the city had recently lost both a fireman and a police officer but was unaware of how those positions came to an end. Chamberlin also expressed his desire to discuss the matter in Executive Session. However, it was explained by Law Director McWatters that resignations do not qualify as matters to be discussed in Executive Session.
Councilor Kathy Huner asked if the discussion of personnel issues related to certain types of discipline, with or without pay, would be acceptable reasons to enter into Executive Session. McWatters explained that , under the State statute, those were acceptable reasons to enter into Executive Session but reiterated that the matters brought up by Council Chamberlin were resignations, which are not Executive Session topics. Mayor Shaw explained that the city has recently had a police officer resign but that position had been filled by a new officer, Mitch Huner.
Councilor Don Mathews also expressed concern that he hears rumors on the street and feels that he has not been adequately informed to answer questions posed to him by citizens who seem to have more information that he does. Mathews stated that he would like to have better communication so that he can address concerns brought to him by residents. Councilor Chamberlin agreed that he felt the same concern and would also like better communication.
Mayor Shawn then explained that the fire department employee had been a part-time firefighter who had resigned and moved out of state and that both the fire department and police officer positions had ended as a result of a resignation. Mayor Shaw also asked council members to go directly to him with any questions they might have.
Councilors Huner and Mathews asked Council President Heather Kost if communication could be made to council members when such resignations occur so that the council members have adequate information to answer questions posed to them. Kost asked how council members would prefer to receive such information and Huner replied that either during the Committee of the Whole meeting or via e-mail would be acceptable. Mathews also questioned why council had not heard about the resignations. Councilor Fred Allen replied that it had been reported during the Committee of the Whole meeting held in the latter part of 2013. Both Mathews and Chamberlin responded that they did not hear the matter discussed during the meeting.
At that time Fire Chief Sluder reported that there have been no disciplinary issues with the department since he took on his role as Chief on July 1, 2013 but that there have been approximately six to eight resignations given by employees who did not like the standards that he implemented. Sluder also expressed his belief that any rumors about the Fire Department are false.
Chamberlin then expressed his congratulations on the hiring of Officer Mitch Huner by the Police Department and noted that it would have been nice to have recognition made during a public meeting as done with other officers in the past. Police Chief Keith Torbet explained that it had been Officer Huner’s decision not to come to the meeting and that he respected those wishes as well as Officer Hendrick’s, the resigning officer, wishes to not air his resignation. It was also explained that Officer Huner had not wanted to be sworn in on the same day that his mother, Councilor Huner, was sworn in and that he had instead chosen to meet with the Mayor to be sworn in privately. Chief Torbet added that the department had not wanted to wait and needed to get the position filled.
No further new business was brought before council and the meeting was adjourned without Executive Session.